The visible appearance of the new dad is a dead giveaway. Besides carrying a little cornstarch or baby powder on their clothing like the ol’ sheet of toilet paper stuck to the heel of your shoe or their shirt half-tucked in or the inside-out undershirt, the new dad is usually stricken with a hardcore unshakeable case of the mopes. Like Edward Scissorhands or Edward from Twilight, it’s marked by half-open eyelids, a pouting front lip, slumped shoulders and the look of a man that watched a dog die in extreme anguish after being hit by a passing automobile. He’s Captain Bum-out. He brings everyone down and it’s not really his fault. It’s his body and psyche reacting to a new stimulus. He’ll adjust eventually, but in the meantime, he’s having a hard enough time getting out of bed in the morning. He remembers the days when he awoke to an alarm clock. Now, he wakes up to the a three-alarm fire. Every morning. He’s racked by the realization that his reality is greatly changed. His late night poker games with his buddies are gone. That summer fishing trip is now in jeopardy every year. There’s an element of regret and he thinks that feeling regret means that he doesn’t love his baby. This is not true. His tired mind is just trying to wrap around where to put his foot to take the next step. He needs to be taught everything over again. He feels inadequate in his new role and embarrassed of it. Probably by this point, he’s heard well over 200 different “just-wait” scenarios that all swirl around in his head like a West Texas dust devil at night. His sanctuary of slumber is now a coffin of worry and hopelessness. His speech is slurred. His thinking and logic is fractured. The mopes have overcome him. The mopes are not easily conquered. I’ll say that in my own personal experience, it was like never being taught how to swim, then flown over the Atlantic Ocean and pushed out of a plane into the sea with no island or watercraft within a 1000 miles. Sink or swim, son. Likely there are elements of that in everyone’s new fatherhood experiences. The quicker a new dad deals with their new realities, their new schedule and new emotional landscape, the easier it is to deal with the mopes. And lots of coffee never hurt.
If you’re a new dad, you can easily sympathize with “crunch time” which is the time before you leave the house before work. Your family’s performance here means paying the mortgage. You can’t use the “new baby” excuse forever. During crunch time, the focus is on preparation. Packing bags for daycare/babysitter, getting the bottles ready, dressing the baby, dressing yourself, making sure you don’t forget to put on y’panties. I can tell you that one of the hardest things to do sometimes is remember to brush them pearlies. It doesn’t help that you’re drinking two or three (or eight) cups of coffee just to make it to your desk. Anyone that knows a cat that drinks a lethal amount of coffee can attest to the stinkmouth you have to deal with. Longterm exposure to dark coffee and breakfast-lunch-dinner-breakfast-lunch-dinner without a little minty toothpaste is the quickest path to a rancid pallet. You can smell this dead-carcass mouth all the way from the copier. Don’t confront him. Just make a polite suggestion by tapping him on the shoulder, slipping him an Altoid and walking away. It’ll help him in his immediate situation and then remind him to rinse out that nasty yapper before he comes to work.
MASTERY OF THE DRY HEAVE
A new dad will often find himself in a intense gastrointestinally compromising position. That is somewhere in between a dry heave and a wet heave. Nonetheless, he finds himself jumping into missions regardless of the possibly disastrous outcome. Depending on the level of putrid diaper or vomit this new dad has endured, he could possibly stare down the gnarliest gut-exploding scenario with no more than a soft, level one dry heave. If his baby’s diapers look like something from the back pages of Fangoria, you can almost guarantee that this cat has mastered the dry heave. It took me about two weeks to harness that gag reflex. Now, I can almost take on anything. New dad’s still have the potential to slip up and have an episode. Still very prone to getting loose over the smell if not the sight of it. Almost always, though, the new dad dry heave comes with tearful eyes. They still hurt him tremendously. He’ll get there where he can pull back any diaper and jump into action without hesitation.
New dads tend to forget that not everywhere is a “sleeping baby” room. If they’re late for a meeting, they’ll often try to sneak in the room like a there’s a light-sleeping baby in the room. You’ll see them tip toe in with their shoulders tightened and this bizarre grimace on their face. They’ll close the door without the hardware not even making a single solitary click. The new dad has figured out that going anywhere requires an unmatched level of Navy Seal-like secrecy. He moves with the delicacy of a man disarming a weapon of mass destruction with a toothpick. Should he make a noise when entering the room, his mouth takes the shape of someone blowing out the candles on a birthday cake with a panicky exhale. He closes his eyes hoping that no one has heard him. It takes a new dad who is fatigued and sometimes in a state of blurred circumstance and setting to realize that not every room has a sleeping baby in it. He’s grown accustomed to walking around the house on his toes and not speaking louder than a mumble for fear of setting off a three-alarm meltdown. Help him by overcompensating and speaking in an exaggerated loud volume. It’ll help him snap out of his delusional state and recognize that he’s left the house and is now at work.
While new dad’s are prone to showing up to work in wrinkled closes or different colored socks or, even better, no belt (done this one a couple of times), one of the most neglected zone of a new dad’s wardrobe occurs from his chin up. Speaking from a man who needs no reason to grow a beard, the new baby is a convenient excuse to grow a beard. It starts as a sure-why-not-beard and then turns into a Billy Gibbons wildfire. It starts with not having the time on consecutive mornings to get it shaved off during crunch time to some sort of ceremonially significant beard grown in honor of the new addition to the family. For the guy who can’t grow a beard and never could, the result is an embarrassing smattering of ad hoc whiskery. It’s like someone tarred and feathered him using honey and the clippings swept up from a barber shop. He doesn’t realize the absurdity of his junior-ranking beard or, moreover, he does but believes that he’s afforded the beard because he’s a new dad and it’s a ritualistic reaction to the new baby. The ritualistic beard is nothing more than a front for a man’s laziness. The beard, the unkept hair on top, the wings on the back of the neck, the “extended chest hair” on the front of the neck are all evidence of a new dad letting it all go. Let him enjoy this beard. Don’t necessarily confront him on it. Again, in many cases, he’s tricked himself into believing that this beard has a purpose or significance. He’ll cut it when he sees it’s time to do so. I just recently cut off my daddy beard. It’s kinda like upgrading to Dad 2.0.
Should you see all five of the above indicators, without a doubt, you have a new dad. He needs your support. He needs your guidance. It’s your responsibility, should you already earned your wings as a dad, to reach out to the new dad and help him through his situation. It’s how community and companionship begins among dads. No one can do it alone. It takes the help of spouse, a partner and a network of bros that have conquered it already. Helping a new dad out, though, relies on your ability to recognize one in a line-up because, in the darkest of days of a new dad, he’s not likely to volunteer his inferiority to you.
It’s Tuesday. Be sympathetic. Not because it’s Tuesday, but because the world needs more sympathy. Put down your smart phone and be a friend.